April 24, 2015

My Social Networking Tip

            I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this sort of thing lately.  Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Tumblr, Instagram—all the various forms of social media.  Tons of writers want to know how to make it work for them.  What’s the real trick to turning tweets into sales?  How do I make my blog pay for itself?
            Well, it’s pretty easy.
            Allow me to explain…
            You’ve probably heard people talk about networking. Regular networking.  You know, the thing where I know George and he knows Phoebe and she knows that other George and suddenly wham I’m writing a Star Wars movie.  Because it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Right?
            Lots of gurus push networking.  It’s their go-to thing for success, because it’s kind of a fail-safe thing to preach.  If you succeed, they were right.  If you fail, they were also right (you clearly didn’t network with the right people).
            And so a lot of beginning folks go out there and network.  And by “network,” I mean they stalk professional writers and agents and editors, both online and in the real world.  They bombard them with emails and messages and friend requests.  They follow them around at parties and conventions.
            The truth is, though, this isn’t how networking works.  It isn’t about people I’ve hunted down and cornered.  It’s about people who are friends and acquaintances—real friends and acquaintances.  You may have heard folks say that networking should be lateral, not upward, because friendship is lateral.
            As I’ve mentioned over on my ranty blog, this is why active networking doesn’t work.  If I become “friends” with someone just because I want something from them, they’re going to sense that.  It’s a forced relationship, and those are never good.
            Why do I bring up networking?
            Well, the same holds for social networking.  If I’m blogging or tweeting or running a fan page just to have a captive audience who’ll buy stuff from me… it’s not going to work. If I try to use social media as a billboard or a series of commercials… it won’t work.  I can’t just stick up non-stop “buy my book, read my blog, look at this” because people don’t respond to that.  People use social media to interact, and that’s what all these systems are set up around. 
            Here’s a few other tips…
            First, if I have “a platform,” I’m kind of screwed.  No one wants to see my platform.  No one’s interested in it.  It’s a nonsense term made up by another idiot marketing guru, and it means I’m turning people into assets.  The simple fact that I think of it as “a platform” means I’m doing it wrong.  It makes it very clear how I view the people I interact with online.
            Second, social media has to be organic.  The whole system is based around this.  It can’t be forced or rushed or bought.  I see so many folks get frustrated because they don’t have a thousand rabid followers in their first three months.  I have a big Facebook following, but my fan page has been up for almost six years.  On the flipside I’ve barely been on Twitter for six months and right now one of my cats has twice as many followers as me.
            Third, remember how I just said it can’t be bought?  I was serious.  Paying for ads or exposure on social media is like doing the cheerleader or quarterback’s English homework so I can sit at the popular table during lunch.  I’m only there for a day or two, most people are going to tune me out, and then I’m back over in the corner with the drama club and that one kid who just runs in place during gym class, no matter what everyone else is doing.  Not only that, but there’ve been several studies by smart people that show paying for social media ads (especially on Facebook) accomplishes nothing and actually hurts me in the long run.
            This is only my opinion, but I think the best thing someone can do as an author on social media is to just be themselves.  Be honest.  Be fun.  Like stuff more than hating it.  Be positive more than negative.  If you look at my fan page or twitter feed, I’d guess 60-70% of the stuff I post has nothing to do with my books or me as an author.  It’s mostly about me as a geek who likes a lot of fun stuff and likes sharing it with people. 
            If that isn’t your thing… don’t do social media.  Lots of successful authors don’t.  Because if I’m going to be on social media people expect me to be social, not to spend every minute hammering home a publicity/ marketing plan.  Really, that’s the kind of presence that hurts more than helps.  I’ve seen different authors try different methods (from starvation to… well, risqué), but this is more or less what it boils down to.  People are on social media to interact, not to receive advertising or canned updates.
            So, how do you turn tweets into sales?
            You don’t.

            It’s really that simple.

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